Parental behaviour closely associated with adolescents’ excessive Internet use, finds NIMHANS study

The study showed that decreased care and increased control from the mother, high autonomy from father and increased rejection from both parents as risk factors associated with adolescent internet excessive use

Updated - August 12, 2023 09:02 pm IST

Published - August 12, 2023 12:59 pm IST - Bengaluru

A new study from NIMHANS reveals that parental behaviour is closely associated with adolescents’ excessive internet use. | File photo

A new study from NIMHANS reveals that parental behaviour is closely associated with adolescents’ excessive internet use. | File photo | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash

A new study by researchers from NIMHANS has revealed that parental behaviour is closely associated with adolescents’ excessive Internet use. The study — aimed at understanding factors in parent-adolescent relationships that determine low and excessive Internet usage — was published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry last week.

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Led by Bino Thomas, Associate Professor of Psychiatric Social Work at NIMHANS, the study showed that decreased care and increased control from the mother, high autonomy from the father and increased rejection from both parents as risk factors associated with adolescent Internet excessive use.

Emergent health hazard

“Internet addiction is an emergent health hazard among adolescents, especially after COVID-19. Parenting factors in a family environment specifically have potential roles in either causing excessive Internet usage, or in protecting teenagers from internet addiction,” said Dr. Thomas, who is the corresponding author.

A total of 102 adolescents in the age group of 13 to 18 years from two different schools in Bengaluru Urban were recruited for the study. Half of the participants were found to have mild to severe levels of Internet addiction, and the remaining half had normal levels of internet usage.

The results showed that decreased care and increased control from the mother, high autonomy from the father and increased rejection from both parents were risk factors associated with adolescent internet excessive use. No other significant associations were found between adolescents’ demographic, academic, peer and school profile and their internet addiction, according to the study.

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Not everyone develops addiction

“Previous studies have shown that not every adolescent who uses Internet develops an addiction, and this goes well with our findings as well. Overall, the findings highlighted that half of the teenagers did not report having a problematic use of the Internet. The findings have shown an association of Internet usage and parenting dynamics with adolescents at home context,” said the doctor, who also works with Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Pointing out that teenagers with higher parental care and lower parental rejection scores had no excessive use of the Internet, the doctor said: “However, parental rejection scores went increasing with the scores of levels of Internet use rising. This indicated a probable connection of rejecting parenting practices indicating a higher chance for excessive use of the internet among teenagers.”

Mothers more controlling

Manoj Kumar Sharma, Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology, who also heads SHUT Clinic at NIMHANS, said the results brought forth another interesting finding that mothers were perceived to have been exerting more control on the teenagers than the fathers in general.

“Traditionally, parental control is expected to be mostly vested with fathers. However, this pattern seems to be shifting as teenagers have reported that more mothers used parental control. In view of the excessive use of the Internet, control by fathers was seen as low in both mild addiction and no addiction categories,” said the doctor, who is the co-author of the study.

Similarly, the autonomy scores were also found to be high for father as compared to mother in the moderate and severe internet addiction group. 

Care and rejection 

The care and rejection dimensions of parenting showed another possible connection with internet addiction scores among teenagers. Decreased care from the mother and increased rejection from both parents were found to be related to increased internet addiction. Similarly, increased control by both parents and decreased autonomy from mothers also have found a relationship with excessive internet use. 

“Parental control and rejection were found to be relatively higher among parents with lower levels of education. We further need to investigate if there are any other impacts of such parental behaviour on teenagers especially with behavioural or emotional problems,” Dr. Sharma added.

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